Police Shootings Are 'More Than A One-Dimensional Crisis' Says Pastor T.D. Jakes
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Continuing now with the unrest in North Carolina, the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott has compelled the attention of many other people, including Bishop T.D. Jakes. He is the senior pastor of the Potter's House in Dallas, the nondenominational Christian church is one of the country's largest with some 30,000 members. He's also the host of a new talk show called "The T.D. Jakes Show" which recently premiered on the OWN network. It's an opportunity for Bishop Jakes to tackle some hard topics outside of his sermons, and I started by asking him if he hopes these kinds of conversations will help bridge the kinds of divisions that have become so apparent.
T D JAKES: I think it absolutely helps. However, the conversations alone will not facilitate the kinds of change that causes people to march in the streets. They don't just want to talk about it. They want to see action. And what I really learned in Charlotte, whether I was talking with the president of the Urban League, or whether I was talking with Chief Putney or whether I was talking to the neighbors of Lamont Scott - people understand that this is more than a one-dimensional crisis in the community.
It is a multilayered problem that encapsulates many things that we need to resolve, a criminal justice system that is not as just as it ought to be. Not just on the street, but the whole comprehensive understanding of the criminal justice system has fallen prey to politics and special interest groups to the detriment of minorities. There is bipartisan interest on this issue, both Republicans and Democrats admittedly suggesting that the criminal justice system needs to be overhauled. So conversations - that's part of it.
MARTIN: You talked about the fact that there's growing bipartisan interest in this, but it is also among the most racially polarized discussions that exists in this country. I mean, if you look at those surveys on this, you know, overwhelmingly African-Americans say that something is broken in the way our criminal justice system operates, that it is biased. Overwhelmingly, white people who are polled on this issue will say that they think by and large the criminal justice system is fair. And I'd like to ask you what you feel you have to offer in addressing that?
JAKES: I don't think that is so much that I have anything to offer. I think what we need is to continue to push so that the people who have the power to make decisions can do so, and I think it's important that we don't confuse what we're seeing on the streets with the problem that we're having with criminal justice - goes much, much deeper than the men who were wearing blue uniforms. And we have turned criminal justice into big business, and we're building prisons in such a rapid pace that they have replaced plantations. And the fact that we're polarized - I think that's a result of how the coverage is done and how the public is only seeing one dimension of a huge problem.
MARTIN: Well, talk to me a little bit about that if you would. I mean, you have quite a platform now. I mean, people who don't know your - who can't attend your church - they certainly have - can hear your sermons if they - they might have seen your films. I mean, they have read your books. What do you think you can accomplish with this program that you can't do with your existing platforms? I can't think of a better word.
JAKES: Well, let me quickly - understand that the Potter's House is a church and our primary mission is to preach the gospel. But there are other things that are wrong in our society that won't be resolved to people making altar calls. The opportunity for me to do "T.D. Jakes Show" is to have a broader, comprehensive discussion on other issues about life, about families, about communities, about dysfunctions.
We just did a show on the mental health systems and the crisis that we're seeing in mental health and all of these disparities. I really applaud the platform. I don't think that the talk show by itself will change the world or anything like that, but it does create a platform to which I might be able to disseminate information to people who are underserved and provide an opportunity for those who are not in touch with the people who are under-served to better understand that we are in this fight together.
MARTIN: Before we let you go, I am recognizing that you were talking about your show and not the - your preaching, but you are kind of in the hope business. I think you are in the hope business. I hear our reporting suggest that a lot of people feel a sense of despair right now. Do you mind if I ask what's keeping you hopeful?
JAKES: Oh, you know, I am hopeful because I'm - first of all, I'm old enough to have remembered this country when we were in crisis before. I've seen dark days. I've seen lynchings and mobs and killings and destruction, and yet we rose. And so I am hopeful that the better nature of this country will rise out of the ashes of the disparity that we're in right now and that we will see a resurrection of the American dream.
Ultimately, my deeper hope lies in the fact that I have confidence that we have a God who orchestrates human affairs and intervenes from time to time in such a way that we learn from our mistakes, we grow from our misfortunes and, ultimately, we become wiser than we were before.
MARTIN: Bishop T.D. Jakes is the senior pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas. He is now hosting a talk show "The T.D. Jakes Show" on Oprah's OWN network. Bishop Jakes, thanks so much for joining us.
JAKES: Thank you. It's been a real pleasure. Take care. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.